The Story Behind the Story

Get on down to the boogie town sounds as those MP3's go round and round ....
I got a confusing email this morning. Since I’m not a dick I didn’t delete it or write something smarmy back to prove my superiority. Instead I asked for some clarification. I was glad I did. It turns out that the guy had wandered into Bewildering Stories’ web site and read my story And the Beat Goes Phut. What Google search got him from where he started to there is a mystery. Anyway it turns out that the guy was, is still I’d guess, a DJ. He was curious what drove me to make a DJ the main witness to the apocalypse. Since there is an actual story behind that I promised I’d answer him here and share with you. As some of you know I used to run a dance music label. One of our artists was DJ Russ Harris. He was wrapping up a divorce just as I was starting one. I wanted to blend him into one of my stories just because he’s a cool guy and a lot of fun to talk with. But I didn’t want his wife’s lawyer to be able to say something like “Sure, you go to church, own a solid business and love your family but you also know Bill McCormick so this court can never, ever, allow you to see your children again.” I like Russ so I changed the name of the DJ to Sparks. I forget why I chose that name. Of course, since Russ had been featured in DJ Times I had to give them a shout out too.

But this story almost stayed on my computer. And if it weren’t an exciting taco recipe it might have.

You see, prior to writing this I had been suffering writer’s block and was further brought low by severe constipation. My neighbor’s wife tried cooking a new meal and invited me over for a taste. I barely made it home in time, but I did make it. I later learned that her cooking ranges from “You may be poisoned” to “This may resemble food.” The meal in question was somewhere in the middle.

Nevertheless, as I was sitting there feeling as though some meth head was using a roto-rooter in my lower intestine, a story came to mind. It was fun, it was odd and it was dark. When I finally left the confines of my throne room I sat and wrote it in one take. It felt like it would be a successful short story. Rereading it later I realized it most certainly would. Since it already was. I had re-written Jerome Bixby’s masterpiece, It’s a Good Life. Oh, my version had a girl instead of a boy and a couple of other minor differences, but I would have gone to plagiarizer’s jail. There were, however, three small parts that were not in the original. I copied them into a text file, named it “Notes for Bill” and went back to my life.

Oh, yeah, I deleted the heck out of the story I’d written.

And now back to And the Beat Goes Phut. I had gotten to the part where Sparks is sitting in a bar watching the world end. This was not as riveting as one might hope.

Drink beer, see catastrophe on TV, drink beer, see catastrophe on TV, drink beer ……

Not exactly gripping literature.

Then I remembered my file of notes. I had written a scene where my little girl had a sock puppet who justified her killing pretty much everyone. Well, justified to her satisfaction, at least.

I snagged it, changed sock puppet’s name from Socky to Ibrahim, added some references to the Queen song Mustapha which I happened to be listening to and went to work. About 80% of that final scene was written for the story I’d killed.

And it worked.

So I sent the story out to people who might publish it. The nice people at Bewildering Stories responded back that they kind of sort of liked it and wanted to give it a whirl. So I said “Coolio” and kissed my story goodbye.

Then something funny happened. The editorial staff at Bewildering Stories slated my story for release around 09/11/11. Since my “bad dude” had an Arabic name and the whole story was about terrorism, I thought this was on purpose and said nothing. It turns out I was wrong.

That happens a lot, I’m used to it.

They quickly moved the release back a month so they wouldn’t have the tackiest tie-in to a tragedy ever conceived and the world marched merrily on.

No, seriously, had the story been released then it might have seemed as if I wanted to use “Celebrate” as the soundtrack for the towers coming down. That would have been very wrong. Even for me.

Anyway, after the story came out I heard from a couple of other people who wanted to publish it. I said it was already out but they could with some minor considerations, which none of them wanted to do.

Oh well, juck them if they can’t take a foke.

So, Aban, I hope this clears everything up for you although I somehow doubt it. Feel free to write me again with any other questions.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.

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